Post No Bills

Language is a mine field. The words we choose to use and the underlying meaning behind what we say and hear is of crucial importance. 

Our understanding of a word is often not as straightforward as being provided a simple definition. Feminism. Conservative. Fashion. Their meanings are in flux. They have a historical story as well as a place in contemporary culture. The way I understand feminism today is not how I understood it ten years ago and, surely, it is not the same as the way my mom understood the word back in the 1970s. 

The way we perceive and use language is influenced by the media, politicians, Instagram captions, books, movies, our friends. We're influenced by everything around us and all of the subtle changes taking place within society are slowly (or abruptly) altering the way we understand and use specific words. 

Tate Foley's exhibition, Post No Bills, taps into this idea.

Currently on show at the Contemporary Art Museum in St Louis, Foley's display of large-scale sculptures work to reframe the language of protest. This is particularly relevant in a divided city that sits within a nation struggling to wrap its head around the implications of an upcoming election. 

Language is of crucial importance because it provides people with a voice. It is when people feel that their voice cannot be heard (or is not valued) that a society truly starts to break down. 

Created using a Risograph, words such a 'bourgeoisie', 'systematic' and 'explicit' are deconstructed into their phonetic components and attached to wooden structures.

Ultimately, the typography resembles gibberish. What looks like random combinations of letters are sort of collaged together, creating colorful montages that are juxtaposed by the simple shades of wood that form the sculpture's structure.

The Contemporary Art Museum describes Post No Bills as an installation that dismantles systems of power. While the benefits and risks of doing this are far too complex to dive into here one thing is abundantly clear from Foley's work: print is not dead.

Foley's ability to turn, what looks like, a simple combination of letters into larger-than-life sculptures with captivating aesthetic value is alarming. At a time when magazines and newspapers are struggling, and most people no longer even own a simple printer, his use of old-school techniques breathes new life into the possibility for print. 

A printers worth is no longer found in its ease-of-use, cheap ink or speed.

Being able to utilize a printer from the 1980s and produce a work of art as captivating as Post No Bills is truly a sign of Foley's ingenuity and resourcefulness as a contemporary artist.

Post No Bills is being shown at the Contemporary Art Museum in St Louis as part of the Great Rivers Biennial. Exhibition runs until August 21, 2016.

Photos and words by Jennifer Inglis.